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Mattituck-Cutchogue unveils preliminary budget with a 1.69% increase

Mattituck-Cutchogue school district officials unveiled a proposed $41.4 million budget for the 2020-21 academic year at last Thursday’s school board meeting.

Like last year’s $40.78 million budget, this new financial plan is driven by employee salaries, at $20.30 million, and employee benefits, at $11.5 million. It’s a 1.69% increase over last year’s total budget.

“With diligent fiscal planning, this budget maintains all current programs offered to students and includes continuous implementation of safety and security measures as well as enhancement in areas of curriculum, mental health, the arts, clubs and athletics,” Superintendent Jill Gierasch said at the meeting. 

This year’s proposed tax levy will rise by 1.90%, which falls below the district’s assigned allowable increase  of 2.51%, according to district treasurer Frank Bacchi. 

The cap on raising property taxes, imposed in 2012, limits tax levy increases for any given year to either 2% (with certain exceptions) or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

Over the past few years, Mr. Bacchi said, the district has been “extremely resourceful” and generated substantial savings for taxpayers in the district. 

The 2020-21 budget proposal is divided into seven categories: salaries, employee benefits, instructional and student services, central office, transportation, debt service and fund transfers, and facilities and security.

Ms. Gierasch also pitched long-term potential projects that could be funded separately through the district’s Capital Reserve.

Items up for consideration included new roofing and exterior building renovations, three athletic field renovations, new boilers, a multi-purpose room and a STEAM wing at the high school and new roofing and a pole barn for storage at  Cutchogue East Elementary School.

Textbooks, instructional resources and technology account for roughly 3% of the budget. Administrator of curriculum and instruction Ilana Finnegan and technology director Gerri Doherty explained how the budget will fund curriculum and technology expenses, respectively.

Compared to last year’s budget, more funds will be directed to in-district and out-of-district professional development for teachers, Ms. Finnegan said. Curriculum writing, instructional resources, literacy and math intervention, and BOCES curriculum services are also supported through the budget.

In response to widespread pushback across the state , New York’s Board of Regents voted in 2017 to replace Common Core curriculum standards with Next Generation Learning Standards. At Mattituck, the math curriculum has shifted to align with these newer standards, Ms. Finnegan said. 

On the technology side, Ms. Doherty explained that the proposed budget covers infrastructure changes, audio visual changes and new technology initiatives. 

Compared to last year, she said, the biggest technology expense would be a  switch from 300 Mbps internet to 1G internet service, which will provide students, teachers and district staff with a faster and more efficient internet connection.

Mr. Bacchi said the proposed budget is subject to change before it is adopted by the school board. The budget vote is set for Tuesday, May 19, from 3 to 9 p.m. at the high school gymnasium.